Confirming a decision that had been widely expected for some time, the FIA World Endurance Championship announced Friday that the 1000 Miles of Sebring, scheduled to be the series’ 2021 opener on March 19, has been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Its place as the season opener will be taken by a new event on the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, on April 4.

Although IMSA’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is going ahead as scheduled on March 20, the WEC and its European teams figured to be more adversely affected by travel restrictions resulting from the pandemic. With freight due to be sent to the USA imminently, series organizers felt they could wait no longer to decide to cancel this year’s visit to Florida.

“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause issues worldwide and the decision to cancel Sebring and replace it with a race in Portimao was made following consultation with the FIA, IMSA and management at Sebring,” said Pierre Fillon, president of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest. “We are saddened not to see our American friends and can’t wait for the day when we can return to the USA to race alongside IMSA for ‘Super Sebring.’ We remain focused on continuing to build our long-term relationship with both IMSA and the Sebring International Raceway and the intention will be to return to Sebring in the future.”

Located in the south of Portugal, the Algarve International Circuit (pictured above) will also host the Prologue, the WEC’s official pre-season test, from March 30-31. Constructed in 2008, Portimão has been used to host a round of the European Le Mans Seriessince 2017 and features a mix of fast and slow-speed corners, as well as dramatic gradient changes.

WEC organizers hope to retain the rest of the 2021 calendar, with Spa-Francorchamps set to host round 2 at the beginning of May followed by the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Monza will host an inaugural WEC race in July while the championship is set to return to Fuji in Japan in September. WEC Season 9 will conclude in Bahrain in November.

Meanwhile, Sebring International Raceway was keen to assure fans that they can be confident about attending the track’s IMSA race as scheduled March 20. While some aspects of the four-day event will not be entirely back to normal, the unique nature of the 400-plus acre facility allows fans and competitors alike to enjoy Sebring in a fashion close to what many have experienced since 1952.

“We are grateful to the amazing Sebring fans who attended the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in November for conducting themselves in an orderly and responsible fashion so that we can take the next step in returning Sebring and all of motorsports to normal operations,” said Wayne Estes, Sebring’s president and general manager. “For most fans and competitors in November it was as if not much had changed at Sebring, and the few inconveniences the pandemic has caused did not eliminate the opportunity to have a typical Sebring good time.”